Why Pay Per Click Is Such A Beautiful Tool For SEO

SEO and PPC fans often find themselves in different parts of the building, on different floors and sometimes on a different planet. This shouldn’t really be the case, but is.

If you start to think of PPC as a device of SEO, it takes on a very different light and your own attitude shifts slightly. Now, I know you’re already ahead of me and thinking of keywords and the dreaded “not provided” category of keywords as the point of this post — but in fact, that isn’t my main point.

Rather, the insights which pay per click campaigns deliver to marketers are crucial to making the right decisions about SEO campaigns and, moreover, the ability for the Global SEO Manager to actively deploy PPC activity to test issues and concepts before implementing expensive SEO projects means that it should really be the tool of choice for the world’s greatest SEOs — not the abominable beast it is sometimes described as by pro-SEO SEOs.

Trust Your Global SEO With PPC Budget. Source:Webcertain

Trust Your Global SEO With PPC Budget. Source:Webcertain

There are two thoughts I’ve had for literally years that I continue to wrestle with; firstly, how can we, as an integrated global SEO and SEM agency, find ways for clients to fund their SEO activity directly through their PPC campaigns. And secondly, how should PPC and SEO campaigns relate to each other.

I’m certainly convinced that the PPC budget should not be taken away from the SEO for purely political reasons — in fact I would go so far as to say that exceptions should be made to PPC versus other forms of media spend, and paid search should not be regarded as part of the advertising mix for organisational reasons.

The reason for this is basic and simple; if you spend the money purely with the advertising team you will get the advertising and nothing more. Spend it with an SEO team which has so much more to gain from the knowledge gained from working with it, and you stand to gain substantially more besides the normal paid clicks.

Motivate Your SEO Agency To Perform With Slices Of The PPC Budget?

The funding mechanism is so much more challenging. I’d be interested to see what would happen if clients merged their PPC and SEO budgets into one once more — in other words to hold search budgets.

One solution might be to have a fixed budget — let’s say $10,000. That budget would be available to use as media spend or as ‘Search Referral Conversions’ (SRF). In other words, let’s say a fee of $5 per SFC was agreed. This would be paid for each conversion whether it came from a paid or an organic click.

If the agency started off with $10,000 but was generating 100 conversions, the agency would actually spend $9,500 in media spend and claim $500 in SFCs. The more SFCs the agency was able to claim, the less the agency would spend on media.

The downside of this, you say, is that the client would eventually see fewer conversions for their media investment — but this isn’t actually true. If the number of conversions dropped, the agency would lose revenue they would otherwise have been allowed to keep. So, they would have a vested interest in maintaining or improving performance.

International SEO Agency Mixing It Up With PPC Budget. Source:Webcertain

International SEO Agency Mixing It Up With PPC Budget. Source:Webcertain

If you allow the agency access to make SEO recommendations — in fact you’d be wise to actively encourage that — then the agency will be minded to focus on making the changes offering the greatest likelihood of success. They’d also be likely to focus on the most important improvements first –as well as knocking over any obstacles in the purchase funnel. As the SFC revenue grew and they gained confidence in you being fair and paying the fees, the agency’s commitment and efforts invested would also expand.

The result is that you would have converted your PPC budget into an also-SEO budget without too much effort. By the way, the main reason these performance schemes don’t work is because the client puts in thresholds and caps. A threshold might be because their search referrals are already converting and they don’t want to just pay money across to the agency rewarding them for past efforts that are just now producing conversions.

Thresholds can actually work as long as they reflect the conversions already being generated, and are not thresholds based on some future figure or upward pointing trend.

Caps, however, are a killer. They turn an agency’s motivation and risk taking effort right down — and why would you cap things? If your budget is capped, why would you need to cap SFCs? Because your media spend has been completely cannibalised? So what? If you did the math right in the first place, that was what you always wanted and you can surely afford now to increase your media budget to take things to the next level?

What’s To Be Gained By SEOs Working With PPC Budget?

Looking at this from our original angle of the PPC experience helping the SEO team, what exactly can an SEO gain from working directly alongside PPC?

The first benefit could be described as gaining an insight into user behaviour. This means much more than understanding which keywords prospects use. By understanding things like time of day or search patterns you can gain a real grasp of how prospective customers are thinking — which in turn would highlight which aspects of your SEO program are most important and have the greatest upside value.

Secondly, don’t forget that testing content against users is no longer the sole preserve of the usability or conversion optimization teams. The best measure of content quality is to ‘bounce’ that content off users. And since content quality is key for SEO these days — witness Panda, Penguin and click through rates — finding out quickly whether your pages or liked or not quickly, is essential.

Finally, an SEO does need to know if the users fail to convert because of obstacles they meet en route through the site — if the conversion path isn’t smooth, why would you invest in further SEO techniques?

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Multinational Search | Search Marketing | Search Marketing: General | Search Marketing: Multinational | SEO - Search Engine Optimization


About The Author: is a linguist who has been specializing in international search since 1997 and is the CEO of WebCertain, the multilingual search agency and Editor-in-Chief of the blog Multilingual-Search.com. You can follow him on Twitter here @andyatkinskruge.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/kkapaloski Kory Kapaloski

    I actually work for a company where I manage both SEO and PPC campaigns that work together for many clients. In fact frequently when a client is focused on only one, I recommend implementing the other. There is definitely much to be gained and learned meshing the two.

  • http://twitter.com/sharithurow sharithurow

    Hi Andy-

    Great article, as usual! I don’t think people realize that one of the reasons PPC and SEO work so well together is quite simple: both take up screen real estate in SERPs.

    Doesn’t always mean that people will click on one or the other listing (or both), but having more screen real estate in a SERP? Usually a good thing.

  • http://twitter.com/mikemcguire Mike McGuire

    what is SFC?

  • http://twitter.com/OurMarketingGuy CallTheMarketingGuy

    Great article Andy. PPC is like a science experiment. Always testing and learning to see what works !

  • Victoria Wilson

    Great article! PPC and SEO, I think are truly stronger together for the reasons you list. Testing is extremely valuable, as you mention. My company has found we receive a strong ROI on our marketing dollars because we can pinpoint exactly what works and what doesn’t.

    If you’re in the legal marketing industry, this blog post address how PPC and SEO can really compliment a lawyer’s Web campaign.


  • http://twitter.com/demeyeresven Sven De Meyere

    Running a small PPC campaign is a great way to gather some “inside information” of how your target audience thinks. That $2000 media budget is money well spent, if you consider the added value you get in return. Consider the money you would loose by making poor keyword choices in your long term SEO campaign. No brainer, if you ask me.

  • Yeye Yates

    Interesting. In fact, have not considered PPC as a SEO tool. I mainly use Colibri (http://colibritool.com) for the SEO needs of my simple online store and article marketing for promotion. Here’s thinking that I should utilize the two (PPC and SEO) for improving my site :)


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